DENVER (AP) – Rahim Moore wants so badly to forget it all. No one seems willing to let that happen.
Ever since Moore mistimed his leap and fell helplessly to the grass as Baltimore wide receiver Jacoby Jones hauled in Joe Flacco’s desperation 70-yard TD in the playoffs, the Denver Broncos’ free safety has been absolutely bombarded.
With words of encouragement and consternation.
With pats on the back and snide remarks behind his back.
As the Broncos returned to practice Monday, Moore said he appreciates the support from teammates, friends and the front office and understands the lingering frustration that some fans feel. He promised anew to atone for his many mystifying mistakes on that frigid night back in January that resulted in the most unlikely of touchdowns with 31 seconds left in regulation.
The Ravens went on to beat the Broncos 38-35 in double overtime, ending Denver’s 11-game winning streak and expectations of another Super Bowl trophy for Peyton Manning and John Elway in February.
The Broncos gathered Monday for their first full practice since that heart-wrenching loss, and even with Manning, Champ Bailey and Wes Welker taking their places on the podium afterward, Moore was the man everyone wanted to talk to.
Moore answered questions from a circle of reporters for about 8 1-2 minutes.
He insisted he’s tried to put his playoff performance in his rearview mirror while also using it as a driving force in his life.
Although there was plenty of blame to go around for the loss to the Ravens and even for that fateful play – Tony Carter failed to jam Jones at the of scrimmage – as the last line of defense, Moore has taken the brunt of the criticism, first for letting Jones get behind him and then for trying to pick off the pass instead of making the tackle.
From executive vice president John Elway to coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, the Broncos brass has professed complete confidence in Moore, and teammates from Bailey to Von Miller have said they believe without question he’ll overcome his folly to have a solid season and a splendid career.
“He’s good. The only people that talk about it is you guys,” Bailey told reporters. “Nobody really pays attention to that. It’s in the past. There’s nothing you can really do about that. Just move on.”
Plenty of people are trying to help him do that.
Moore said his teammates, friends from his days at UCLA and fellow NFL safeties have helped him get over his big blunder. He even got a text from Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark Sunday night, he said.
“So, I’ve been blessed with the supporting cast that I’ve had, some people out on the streets, in airports in California or Florida. And it’s a good thing that they really care,” Moore said. “I’ve had some bad comments, but I keep those to myself because it’s part of the territory.”
He can’t ignore the catcalls, though.
“I hear them, I just keep walking,” Moore said. “Or I just keep them in the back of my head.”
While Moore understands it’s hard for some fans to let it go, he insists he has.
“The thing is it’s like life in general: you have to move on. You’re going to have some good days, some bad days. But you can’t just thrive on the good days all the time,” Moore said. “The fans, that’s what they’re supposed to do, that’s why they’re there for us, they pay all their money, their hard-earned money and they want to see greatness. So, I don’t fault them at all.
“But this year, we’re going to do all we can to put some smiles on their faces. A Rahim smile at that.”
After a sleepless night following that playoff loss, Moore met with his teammates and coaches the next day, then caught the red-eye home to Los Angeles and went right back to work, he said, training and lifting weights, watching film on his iPad of all his plays from last season – the good, the bad and the ugly.
“My mind wasn’t probably healthy. But I’m fine now, I’m good,” Moore said.
Among those who consoled him over the winter, Moore said, was former teammate and mentor Brian Dawkins, who told Moore about some of the dubious plays he made during his own career.
“He said it’s a part of life, it’s a part of being a football player,” Moore recounted. “There’s so many good football players out there that there’s going to be some good and some bad (plays).”
Many of his current teammates let him know right away that they didn’t hold him responsible for the devastating loss.
“They lifted me up and it was a great thing, because that’s what Coach Fox preaches is us being a team, and they did a great job,” Moore said. “It’s been a great offseason. It’s been a great first day of OTAs. So, we’re on a mission.”
Especially Moore, who must balance his desire to make up for his playoff pratfall with discipline and patience this year so that he can continue to make strides in Denver’s star-studded secondary.
Fox and Bailey have both said there wasn’t another player on the team who made a bigger leap last year than did Moore in his second season in the NFL, and Fox said he anticipates a similar leap in 2013.
So does Moore, who insisted he’ll continue to grow as a player – not in spite of that fateful play, but as a result of it.
“Absolutely. I’m going to make a better leap. It’s Year 3, it’s time to get it going and be that player that they drafted me to be,” said Moore, a second-round pick in 2011. “I love this game, I love my teammates, I love this organization.”
While Moore continues to seek forgiveness for his blunder, he knows it won’t soon be forgotten, and he’s OK with that because he plans to use it as fuel for his competitive fire.
“Everything. Point blank. Period,” Moore replied when asked what parts of his game he needs to improve. “There’s nothing in particular that you look at and say, this needs to get better. Everything needs to get better. I’m not perfect.”
That’s why he went right back to work after the Broncos’ season ended so painfully and unexpectedly four months ago.
“I want to be a great player one day. So, for me to do that, I have to continue to do what other great players do,” Moore said. “Peyton Manning has not stopped working. Champ has not stopped working.”
NOTES: The Broncos recently restructured Manning’s contract to add an insurance policy should he be unable to play in 2014. There’s no change to the team’s salary cap or to Manning’s salaries, which will be $40 million over the next two years. … RB Willis McGahee was a no-show for the start of OTAs, which are technically voluntary. … Bailey said he hopes DB Charles Woodson signs with Denver: “Who wouldn’t want to have a guy like that on their team? I’m all for it.”
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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